The thought of raising teenagers has historically caused dread and prayers for survival. Many parents have said raising teenagers can take the joy out of parenting. But if we enter our season of raising teenagers armed with wisdom, faith and a good attitude, it can impact our experience as parents and impact the life of our teenager.
My children shifting into teenager mode happened when I least expected it. As parents we were caught off guard and completely unprepared. One day my daughter was skipping down the street holding my hand then suddenly, in what seemed like a moment, she was wearing a new attitude, new clothes and demanding her privacy.
I had to take a step back, grieve the shift and reevaluate our relationship. But adapting, adjusting and trusting God, is what helps parents stay positive when raising teenagers.
What are Typical Teenage Problems?
Parenting a teenager is a privilege and an incredible responsibility filled with twists and turns. By nature, I am an optimist, but teenage problems have tested my optimistic spirit. When raising teenagers, it helps to recognize typical teenage problems and work on solutions. This helps parents lead teenagers to success.
I define how to raise a successful teenager as helping them reach their Godly potential. Leading our teenagers to success is much easier when we discuss teenage problems with them and with other parents and friends.
Open, honest conversation unites us, helps us make tough decisions and helps us realize we are not alone. As frustrating as it can be to raise teenagers, they desperately need parents to continue to guide them during this phase.
What are typical teenage problems? Here is a list of 8 teenage problems we have spent a lot of time tackling in our family.
- Lying and sneakiness– I am not sure we can completely eliminate lying while raising teenagers (this was an expectation adjustment for me). But we can reward and place a high value on honesty while getting to the root of why some teenagers are deceitful.
- Overuse of technology and social media-Teenagers need to develop skills and tools to manage technology. Discuss the effects of social media, set and adjust boundaries often. There are positive attributes technology offers teenagers, but they need to learn skills to control their usage and not be obsessed by technology. (Still working on this one!)
- Concerns with their image– As a teenager’s body changes and hormones are surging, they have to learn to adjust to a new version of themselves. Body image distortion has reached a new level with the addition of social media, selfies and heightened comparison. This is an ongoing conversation in our home especially with our teenage girls.
- Dating–Individual dates for teenagers reveal a list of considerations considering what is at risk. Dating is a complicated but essential part of developing relationships, but at what age should it be allowed? Our philosophy has been, the later individual dating begins the better. Encourage group activities over one on one dates. Clearly outline and discuss the positives and negatives of dating and keep an open dialogue with your teenager.
- Relationship conflict-Working through conflict is part of life. What we teach our teenagers lays the groundwork for future friendships, marriage and family. Helping them navigate conflict is one of the best investments we can make.
- Questioning their faith-Questioning what we believe is also part of life. Our teenagers cannot be carried or sustained by their parents’ or anyone else’s faith in Christ. I try not to shy away from difficult questions about God, so we can process our faith together. I also remind myself that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to call them, not mine. Expose your teenagers to a wonderful life in Christ but don’t feel the need to convince them. We already know a life with Jesus is better we just need to model His love .
- Managing their time- Teenagers often learn to manage their own time, when the don’t manage it well and suffer natural consequences. Let them have control of their schedule before they head out the door.
- Understanding their talents and interests to make better decisions about their future-There are a multitude of tests to help teenagers understand themselves which helps them make better decisions for the future. This requires direction and a lot of conversation with parents, counselors and peers. As parents we aim to be practical but not too narrow minded about their dreams and aspirations
Raising Teenage Girls
When parenting teenagers, we process situations based on their strengths, weaknesses, personality and gender. Because girls and boys are wired differently, physically and psychologically, they face different issues and struggles.
Raising teenage girls has its own obstacle course and unique hurdles to jump, but teenage girls also bring their own wonderful rewards.
“It’s no secret that boys and girls are different””very different. The differences between genders, however, extend beyond what the eye can see. Research reveals major distinguishers between male and female brains. Understanding gender differences from a neurological perspective: calls into question how we parent, educate, and support our children from a young age.”
Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D.
My two daughters have opposite personalities and are different physically and emotionally. I had to slowly peel off one of my teenage girls and the other I had to reel in. Each daughter has their own unique problems, but there are several commonalities that we have faced raising teenage girls:
- Teenage girls place a high value on relationships and struggle more with conflict. This requires thousands of conversations, mostly listening, on how to wade through finding, keeping and losing relationships. It also requires a lot of plan making, changing of plans and adapting to plans. “We are going to the mall, no we are not, we are going to Ashley’s house, no we are not, I am so upset everyone cancelled!”
- Teenage girls struggle more with their appearance and body image. This aspect of being a teenage girl can have lifelong implications. Talk to your teenage girls often about how they see themselves and emphasize that God created them beautifully and perfectly. Try not to compare yourself to others (especially out loud) so she doesn’t fall into her own comparison trap.
- Teenage girls have to work hard to prove their strengths and be taken seriously. I tell my daughters that confidence is attractive and contagious. It is important to teach teenage girls how to find their purpose, identity and strength. This empowers them to confidently say ‘yes’, know how to say ‘no’ and expect respect for their choices. As parents we have to give our teenage girls the latitude to practice their ‘yes’ and their ‘no’.
- Teenage girls have to learn to manage major hormonal shifts. This is not usually considered an asset to being female but is part of the deal. I started young teaching my daughters about their body, how it functions, what to expect and how to take care of the only body they will ever own.
Understanding what teenage girls are facing, helps parents walk through situations specific to girls, while pouring into them and strengthening the relationship. This will help our teenage girls become strong, confident Godly women in the future.
How to Connect with Your Teenage Son
Raising a teenage son brings its own joy and unique problems. My sons are very different in personality, interests and temperament, and I have enjoyed learning how to connect with each one. They are both smart, fun and challenging in very different ways. Our sons are far less talkative than our daughters, so we have been intentional studying and learning how to connect with our teenage son.
“Have you ever sat down to have a conversation with your teenage son, and after minutes of slouching body posture, endless fidgeting, blank stares, and grunting responses, found yourself frustrated, enraged and eventually screaming? Teens are notoriously uncommunicative with their parents, and men have never championed verbal communication. It is therefore not surprising that trying to talk with a teenage boy can be challenging to say the least.”
Because boys are typically less relational and have less to say, many parents struggle knowing how to connect with your teenage son. We have walked through two very different teenage son stories:
My oldest son is incredibly interested in books, random trivia, music and sailing. He is not interested in sports, so we spend our time connecting through what he likes to do.
One of our favorite memories was an afternoon kayak trip with his school. He and I paddled down a bayou together and talked for over an hour. He led the conversation and the kayak. We discussed things I knew nothing about but we communicated for hours which was rare.
My second son is incredibly interested in sports, music and more sports. We spend our time talking about athletes and sport statistics.
One of our favorite memories was watching him play in a baseball tournament. His little league team had lost most of its games. We talked about team improvements and how he could improve his own skills. At the final tournament, somehow, his team won first place. We still reminisce about that crazy baseball game that resulted in his only little league championship trophy.
Because our sons are different, we could not retrace our steps when our second son became a teenager. However, there were similarities raising a teenage son and we did learn some helpful tips on how to connect with your teenage son:
- Get to know their interests and have conversations about what they enjoy. Sometimes you may have to do research or ask them to explain. We don’t have to be experts just be present to engage on their level.
- Seize opportunities when they are available and willing to talk even if it is not always convenient for you. Sometimes talking in the car works and other times it does not. Often the best conversations to connect with your teenage son are while you are working or playing side by side.
- Participate in activities that the enjoy even if you are just on the sidelines as a spectator.
- Don’t pressure them to open up as much as you would like them to. They will struggle meeting your expectations and will shut down. This one is tough for me because I am a talker, but I have learned that too many questions and words can backfire. Teenage boys strive for autonomy.
How to connect with your teenage son is not always easy and there is not a specific formula. But with some research and effort, it can be done and the rewards of connecting will be there for both of you when they are adults.
How do Parents Get Through the Teenage Years
I have thoroughly enjoyed being a parent and watching my children grow. There are so many memories with each of them that bring tears to my eyes. I have a rotating picture reel on my computer of our family photos. If I am feeling overwhelmed or upset with one of my teenagers, I take a look at the pictures scrolling on my screen and am reminded of the precious people that call me Mom.
How do parents get through the teenage years? There are many answers to this question, but here are a few of mine:
- Love your child’s heart and spirit regardless of their behavior at the moment
- Listen to your teen
- Pray often
- Seek outside help when needed
- Take a break (alone and/or with your spouse)
- Remember it is only a short phase that ends, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the moment
“Listening is a powerful yet under-appreciated tool. Parents often orient toward directives and solutions. But setting aside those tendencies and simply listening to the teen can strengthen the relationship. Asking specific or prying questions can make the child feel judged and therefore hesitant to speak openly and honestly. Listening attentively shows interest, validation, and support. It also increases the chances that a teen will confide in a parent as needed. Active listening builds intimacy and trust””while simultaneously allowing the teen to process their experience.”
I have compiled a list of 15 positive strategies for parenting teenagers that may be helpful for you to read. Although each teenager is unique and will require different guidance, it is beneficial to establish boundaries and have a plan when raising teenagers.
What Raising Teenagers has Taught Me
Raising teenagers has taught me many things about myself, my faith and the world around us. I had to reevaluate what I expected raising teenagers would look like and realize it is an important part of the parenting journey with some difficulties but also precious rewards.
In order to persevere and stay positive when raising teenagers, we must rely on our relationship with God to guide us and to keep us anchored in the journey and not focused on possible outcomes. We must also stay connected to positive people that help us grow spiritually and personally.
There is no greater reward than to watch teenagers blossom and begin to make their own choices. It takes time and effort, but eventually teenagers become adults and the burden of responsibility for their life is lifted off our shoulders.
What raising teenagers has taught me is how quickly time passes and how important it is to be present during the important years they remember most.
What has raising teenagers and overcoming teenage problems taught you? Would love to hear from you in the comments!
This post was originally published on ButterflyLiving.org.